Late at night, in the dark places of my soul that I do not like to dwell in, I wonder sometimes why "real" cooks read my rambling postings. I may have moments of revelations when I discover cooking skills that are common place for many of you. On occasion, I can turn a clever phrase, and on very rare occasions, I have real cooking skills to pass on. This is one of those rare posts when I have something important to share...
Green Beans... so simple to get right, yet so often done HORRIBLY WRONG...
Green Beans should be served hot, but NEVER over cooked to the point of wilted wimpy mush (like most restaurants, and always at my mothers' house...sigh). They should have a crunch to them. When you hold them in the middle, they should retain their shape. If they droop, you have over cooked them.
Since these are supposed to be posts about restaurant quality meals, let me share an epiphany when I first started eating out for a majority of my meals. I discovered the difference between a $35 restaurant meal and a $15 restaurant meal. More often than not, the difference is in the vegetables. Any cook can make a steak edible... Get the temperature right, add extra juices and you can get a restaurant quality steak at a $15 restaurant. I have found it is much more rare to get great green beans at a restaurant than it is to get a great steak. Almost never at a $15 restaurant and only occasionally at a $35 joint. Green Beans should be cooked to order. You can not have a simmering pot of beans and dip a cup out every ten minutes when you plate a steak.
If you have never taken me seriously as a cook before, today is the day to listen. Cooking green beans is fast, easy and will do more to define you as a cook than learning to grill a steak.
I remember the first time I wandered into a fancy dancy restaurant, and they advertised that a main course was served with "hericot vert". I found out that it was just a fancy name for Green Beans (OK, actually, it literally means "Beans green" in French). In the US, they are those long skinny beans. In France, they are actually longer and skinnier, and a little bit harder to find here. Buy them fresh, and never frozen. They are MUCH cheaper fresh, and of course better tasting. When selecting haricot vert beans in the store, look for specimens which are evenly colored, without signs of yellowing or mold. They should also be firm and smooth to the touch, without any slime or soft spots. Keep the beans wrapped in a paper bag for up to four days under refrigeration, and wash them before use. When you do use the beans, trim the tips off.
And Now we cook... For this dish, your egg timer is god!
1 pound of beans
couple of pinches of salt
2 cups water
Get the water boiling, add the salt and stir.
Add the beans and give em a swirl.
Start the egg timer, set at 3 minutes.
That's it, three minutes and three minutes ONLY. When the dinger dings, immediately drain the water and then SHOCK the beans with cold water. This stops the cooking process. If you pick up a bean, they will have no droop, and if you break one in half, they will still have that snap. Works perfect every time.
But, they are not quite ready to serve...
Half an onion, cut into thin slices and rings separated, sauteed in 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Saute until just slightly browned edges appear.
Meanwhile, chop a roma tomato. I rarely use additional salt, but something about a salted raw tomato... So, I do not salt the beans or onions, but I do add salt to the tomatoes to taste.
Add the now cold beans to the hot oil and onions and saute for 1 additional minute. Coating the beans with the hot oil is all the additional heat you need to get the beans hot, yet preserve their crispness.
Plate the beans and onions, and garnish with the cold ripe tomato.
And there you have it... 5 minutes start to heaven. Make your beans like this once, and anytime you have a special occasion, you will never go back to (gonna commit blasphemy here) that overcooked, over seasoned, over hyped, souped up, french fried onion nonsense again. God meant vegetables to taste like vegetables.
I first remember hearing the term Haricot Verts at a VERY fancy dancy restaurant in Las Vegas. Before I discovered the joy of the cul de sac, I made many frequent trips to Vegas. After all, without me there would be many less lights. Besides, it gave me comfort to visit my money (the old jokes are the best jokes). This post is part of me series covering my Christmas Eve dinner with my wife. Each hour, for 12 hours I made a single dish (or drink), recreated from a memorable dining experience my wife and I had in our past. Part of the ritual included spending time remembering what made the meal, dish or location special. We have so many Vegas memories, filling the hour with those stories was easy. Our first Cirque du Soleil show (Mystere' at Treasure Island), seeing Sigried and Roy in their glory days, playing blackjack dressed as James bond in a tux and being comped into the most INCREDIBLE suite you could imagine.
My strongest memory is much too long to go into details. It is one of those, "where were you when" stories. I was in Las Vegas on 9/11, and stranded for 5 days before we could leave. Every memory of 9/11 and Las Vegas for me will include walking through the casino sports betting area, with dozens and dozens of huge TV's, all tuned to a news program and showing the towers falling. My memories of our life together are so wonderful to share... except that awful day. But that is part of my Vegas memories. We say a prayer, we never forget and we are changed forever. God bless those souls and all the souls affected (all of us). And, lest we forget to ask God to bless those that are still fighting for... well, whatever you may think they are fighting for, they deserve our prayers the most.
Just in case you aren't paying close attention, I am posting my Christmas Eve dinner with my wife. We decided to recreate our culinary journey through restaurant quality meals. So far, you have missed...
Come back tomorrow to see what we did at 6 PM when we finally get to the main course of the meal!! ...